A Modern Approach to Sustainable Resource Management: Ecological Footprint

A Modern Approach to Sustainable Resource Management: Ecological Footprint

Gökhan Tenikler (Dokuz Eylül University, Turkey) and Murat Selim Selvi (Namık Kemal University, Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6635-1.ch011


The starting point of this chapter is the weakening ability of natural resources to meet the growing and diversifying needs of mankind. This chapter aims to draw attention to the “Ecological Footprint” as a measurable concept of impact of the production and consumption activities on the natural environment. However, every country demands more resources than it has, and developed countries, with their production and consumption patterns, are becoming the primary actors of injustice in the distribution of resources. As seen in the data used in this study, from individuals to countries, ecological footprint is growing steadily, whereas biocapacity to meet the needs is shrinking steadily. By using statistical data demonstrating the ecological footprint and biocapacity changes and differentiation among the countries by years, this chapter clearly reveals the need for a sustainable resource management.
Chapter Preview


All creatures including humans are part of nature and they meet their basic needs from nature. To assemble basic needs from nature is a natural reflex. However, the production and consumption patterns and habits differ among individuals, among communities and even among countries and the problem of protection of resources becomes more important. Limited resources are under even more pressure every day with the increasing world population. Natural and man-made resources are threatened due to crowding of cities, especially to the detriment of the development of rural areas, the negative effects of technology on the environment, non-rational factors such as economic development initiatives and environmental pollution.

First remarkable reactions to humanity’s destructive impacts on nature have emerged in the 19th century. George Perkins Marsh, an American diplomat, who is considered to be America's first environmentalist (http://www.nps.gov/mabi/historyculture/gpmarsh2.htm) and the pioneer to the sustainability concept, has pointed out the role of developments in America and Western Europe in deforestation. Timberlands have been destroyed for the sake of farming activities. Trees have been used as firewood. Deforestation has affected the climate and as a result there have been cases of scarcity and erosion (Toprak, 2012).

Environmental pollution due to excessive consumption and the gradual decrease of the amount of resources, is a serious threat in to meet current and future needs of the growing population. People are moving away from nature, meeting the basic requirements while at the same time not caring about how they meet their requirements. Living creatures, including especially the human being, have strong “effect” all over the world. This effect is a natural result of the relationship in the role between plants and animals. However, people, have exceeded the limits of the relation between natural environment and them. Here the result of the sum of the effects on the ecological environment as a result of production and consumption of the people, is called “ecological footprint”.

In recent years, many models have been developed for calculating quantitative sustainability of resources. “Ecological footprint” is one of these models developed to measure the levels of individuals and society and its impact on the sustainability of the natural ecosystem. Ecological footprint approach has the purpose of measuring the current amount of pristine natural resources and productivity. It is a new calculation method and technique that provides solutions for the prevention of resource consumption unlimited.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Carbon Footprint: The amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere as a result of each person's transportation, heating, energy consumption or purchase of any product.

Water Footprint: The total amount of the freshwater necessary for production and use of commodities and services.

Biocapacity: The self-renewal capacity of nature which provides resource inputs to production and consumption activities.

Mathis Wackernagel: Co-Inventor of Ecological footprint concept with William E. Rees.

Ecological Deficit: The situation of ecological footprint exceeding biocapacity.

William E. Rees: Ecological economist, Mathis Wackernagel’s doctoral thesis supervisor and Co-Inventor of Ecological footprint concept with him.

Sustainable Development: The development approach which envisages the use of today's resources by considering the needs of future generations.

Global Footprint Network: It refers to the organization which annually measures more than 150 countries’ biological capacity demands worldwide and publishes their National Footprint Calculations.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: